‘I only had a penny to put in the offering’
He’s now 30 and working as a management consultant in London, but when Tendai Chetse was 22 and struggling to make ends meet during a postgraduate degree, God gave him a surprising message.
My family moved to the UK from Zimbabwe when I was 17, and there were limits on how much I could work as I didn’t have indefinite leave to remain. As an international student I didn’t qualify for student loans. My mum gave me enough for my tuition, but after paying that, I didn’t have much left. It was really difficult. I was living by faith quite frequently. I’d cover my rent as a bare minimum but would have to ask my housemates to cover me for bills until I got paid.
Money being tight completely limited my social life, apart from getting stuck into the church. One week, I was down to 7p in my bank account. You read the story of the widow’s mite, but I found myself quite literally with a penny to give in the offering. I remember putting it in an envelope because I was so ashamed about putting it in the bucket on its own.
Part of the blessing of not being able to do much and not having money was that I spent a lot of time with God. I got used to spending hours just praying and not necessarily saying or asking for anything, but just waiting. I was getting to a place where it didn’t matter if I had no money, because God was all that mattered in those moments. I had a sense of peace.
That day, I’d been waiting for 15 or 20 minutes in prayer. Then I had this picture in my mind’s eye of a NatWest name badge with the word ‘Sarah’ on it. God just said: “Your money is coming tomorrow.” I thought: “What money? What are you talking about?” I heard: “Go in tomorrow afternoon to the bank and collect it. Take half of it and give the rest to Sarah.” I did not know what to think or feel. I was scared stiff, but there was also an element of excitement, to see if this was real.
I went to the bank the next day and was shocked to find £800 had been deposited in my account just before I got there, with no reference of where it came from. I don’t think I’d seen £800 in the three months before that. So at first I felt this real rush of excitement. I realised: “This is actually happening.”
Sarah wasn’t working at the bank that day so I couldn’t give her the £400. The next day, I waited in her queue, got to the front, and said: “Sarah, this is going to sound strange but I need to give this to you.” She said: “Do you want to deposit it?” Then I realised that I was giving her money in a bank, how was I going to explain that?
I just said: “There’s a note inside that explains everything. Just read that, it’s for you. I just want you to know, God loves you, God bless you.” She was shaking her head and her face was in complete disbelief when I left.
That experience made my faith grow. I’m not concerned by hardship. I don’t spend time worrying about what might go wrong, because I’ve seen it and I’ve been there, and I was fine. God was with me. I always draw on that experience in encouragement to step out, to do things out of the norm, that require you to believe that God can do something impossible.
‘Provision happens so often, you can’t explain it away'
Lindsay Hamon has been carrying his 12ft cross around Europe and Asia for more than 30 years. “I’m happiest when I’m talking to people about the good news of Jesus with those who have never heard,” he says. “Carrying a life-sized cross is a great way to start conversations.” Along the way, God has provided for him through miracles, gifts and small donations.
Right from the start, when I left social work to start mission work, I had to trust God for the finance. I went to Bible college, which was financed by picking fruit in Switzerland. I managed to save 1,000 Swiss francs to pay the fees. The farmer said he believed in what I was doing and gave me another thousand francs.
Then I put the gospel in a booklet and had to pay £40 to print it. This was back in 1980 when that was a lot of money. I was worrying that it was going to make me skint. The next day I got a tax rebate of £40. I had to wonder: “Is this God?”
I’m not really a man of faith because I do worry whether I will have enough money. I would book the ticket to go abroad with my cross, but then I’d worry I wouldn’t be able to afford it. I’ve done everything on a shoestring. But time and time again, if I would prepare to go away in faith – with gritted teeth – then an arbitrary gift would come from someone I hadn’t heard from in years.
Once I was in New Zealand, and a guy with a big BMW stopped me and questioned me about what I was doing. He then gave me £50. Another time I was in Romania, I remember not having enough money for accommodation. The place where I was supposed to stay had fallen through. I met an American guy who was about to leave the country. He stopped the car and gave me a wad of Romanian money. I found a hotel, and when I paid the bill it was exactly the amount the guy had given me. If these sorts of things happen once or twice you can explain them away, but when it happens so often, you get the feeling that God is the God of finance.
It’s the consistent givers, the little old ladies who give me £10 a month (which for them is a big sacrifice) who have kept me going all these years. It’s not an exciting story and they won’t get asked up on any stage, but I’m sure when they get to heaven, the Lord will say: “Well done.”
I never really considered myself a man of great faith. There is always a side of me that is doubting. I choose to go with the faith side, but there is a side that says: “What happens if God doesn’t provide?” But my testimony is that God has provided.
‘God provided through a total stranger’
Kate Bishop is working as a missionary in the Czech Republic for Betel, a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity. A large donation helped her trust in God’s calling.
For many years I have had mission on my heart. When I was exploring joining Betel, one of the big fears that my family had was that I would have no financial security. I had just completed all my social work training and I would be giving it up.
Betel is part of WEC International, and the missionaries live by faith – we don’t ask for money, but trust that God will bring us what we need. We also encourage the girls who come to Betel and who are beginning their faith journey to pray for what they need – the big things and the little things. Once, a girl started secretly praying for leather trousers, because she had always wanted some, ever since she was a child. A week later a pair of leather trousers was donated to us! She doesn’t even wear them because they’re out of fashion, but she keeps them to remind her of God’s provision.
I said that if joining Betel was of God, the money would come in somehow, and if the money doesn’t come in, that it would be an indicator that it isn’t where God is calling me. But my family really doubted the financial side of things. They were worried that I could potentially have nothing. They knew God was a good God, but it was hard for them.
At the start of my training, a friend’s sister in the US, who I don’t know, transferred £4,000 into my bank account. Having that money given to me so early on completely changed my family’s attitude and their trust and their faith that this is what God was calling me to. It came right in the midst of their struggle with what I was doing. That same week, someone at church had come up to a family member and said: “However much you love Kate and want her to be looked after, don’t you think God wants it so much more?”
My family really needed God to speak into that situation, and he provided for us with a complete stranger in America.
‘God’s timing is perfect’
Danielle and Noah Chamberlain live in east London with their four children. Seven years ago illness prompted a financial crisis for the young family. Danielle shares the story.
We’d just had our first child, Zeph; he was five months old. Noah’s dad had a degenerative disease, which had been slowly eroding his mobility and speech over several years. After a visit home to Canada to see him, his health took a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse and doctors thought Noah’s dad would pass away. Noah really wanted to go back to Canada to see him, but his manager was being difficult about giving him the time off. He had to quit his job to go.
We had some money from me being on maternity leave, but after six months it reduced to about £600 per month. It was a pretty drastic and tight financial situation for us. Our rent was £900 per month – which was cheap for London, but we had almost nothing in the bank. Noah was due to start a new job the next year but it wasn’t certain.
We hadn’t been in our church long, but a family took me and my baby on holiday while Noah was gone. Someone else at church threw me a Canadian Thanksgiving meal. So that was God’s provision and inclusion, in a non-monetary sense.
Then one day after a Bible study, the pastor said: “Someone in the church who wants to remain anonymous asked me to be the gobetween to give you an amount of money.” It was around £2,000. I can’t remember the exact amount, but what I do remember is that once Noah got his job agreed, and his pay cheque, we saw that money was exactly what we needed to pay the rent and make ends meet.
The miraculous thing was that the donor couldn’t have known when Noah’s job started and when his first pay cheque would be given, but it was exactly what we needed. God knew and he put it on that person’s heart.
When you know that someone has given a large sum of money, you can sometimes, in your pride, feel like you are indebted to that person. The fact I don’t know who gave it to me means that I remember that God is the giver of all things.
‘We nearly go bankrupt every month, but God always provides’
Mez McConnell is the founder and director of 20schemes, which plants churches in council estates (known as ‘schemes’ in Scotland). He’s faced large deficits in funding but God has always provided.
In April we had our annual church meeting, and the treasurer stood up and told us that at current levels of giving, we’re £12,000 down. We’d had some massive bills come in that year. The church boiler had blown up. There had been unexpected expenses out of the blue.
We’d also sent out a lot of people from our church to plant churches elsewhere. When you’re a small church like ours, and you lose ten or 15 people’s giving, that has a big impact. If we’d continued spending with the same expenses, we’d have run out of money by the end of the year. This is our church’s money but it also belongs to 20schemes, which is a ministry of our church.
The treasurer said people need to raise their giving. I sat in the meeting and said: “We should give, but also need to trust the Lord will provide.”
The next day a pastor of another church rang me and said: “By the way, our church has made an offering to you of £12,000.” He didn’t know anything about the deficit. I told them that’s exactly the amount of our shortfall, and we both laughed and praised the Lord. But then, things like this happen all the time.
20schemes has a massive budget, and it’s nearly going bankrupt every month, but we always pull it out of the bag. We’ve never had a surplus in the six years I’ve been doing it. I don’t agree with surpluses. My church gets sick of me because in my experience of 20 years of ministry, the one thing I don’t worry about is money. The Lord will provide, and if he doesn’t he’s got good reasons.
The Lord is generous to those who are generous; I believe that. I think many Christians in churches would probably see my view as unwise stewardship. I just don’t see that. I look at the parable of the talents. I’m not the one who goes and buries it in the field; I don’t play it safe.
The Lord never provides for a need that doesn’t exist. The more generously we’ve given, the more generous the Lord has been to us. We don’t necessarily wait until we have the money to give, we give and expect the money to come. Every time the Lord comes through.